Cat Pee Condos



I used to ride a bicycle event in the Carolinas called The Assault on Mount Mitchell.  The event is a lottery only ride, so in order to participate one has to sign up, then wait to see if you get a ticket for the ride.  There are reasons for limiting the number of participants — road congestion on the Blue Ridge Parkway, transportation from the summit back to the starting point, making sure all participants are accounted for on the difficult and demanding ride.  All riders wear a chipped ankle bracelet which records the time from start to finish and confirms that the rider has finished.  I miss the event, one I completed twice out of the three times attempted.  Each attempt is a story in itself, with challenges both similar and unique to the other attempts.

The Assault, at least when I used to ride it, was in May, early in the riding season and difficult for a northern USA flatlander such as myself to train for.  That just made surviving the ride even more special when I did finish.  There is more than 10,000 feet of vertical ascent over the 102 mile course, most of it at the last part of the ride, the last eight miles usually completed in the freezing cold and rain, on a grade that feels like it is practically straight up.   That part of the ride, the summit, is actually above the clouds.

I think that I ride tours like the Assault for the memories that remind me of who I am.  Each memory blends with pain, persistence, and incredible joy — joy that can only be experienced by accepting the pain.  Even on the ride that I couldn’t complete, the ride where I sat in the middle of the road five miles from the summit, mentally fried, freezing water rushing past me as the rain poured down, I relish the memory.  I learned a lot from that defeat, proud that I made it as far as I made it, even more proud that I learned a little more about overcoming my pain that day.  The following years, instead of dropping to the road in resignation, I got back on the bike and kept the pedals turning until I reached the goal.

That’s the key, keep the pedals turning.  The Assault turns up the Blue Ridge Parkway after the 80 mile mark at Marion, NC and gets difficult very quickly.  There is a switchback section that precedes the climb to the Parkway where the riders behind you can be viewed below you.  It’s tough.  Once on the Parkway, 10 miles or so from the top, there is a place where you can stop, see where you have been and see the summit — the goal.  What preceded is a mere speck, truly a long ways off, and the summit seems so close.  Yet the most difficult part of the ride is yet to come and it can take a long time to reach, especially if you are not ready for a steep and gut wrenching climb.

The parallel to life is obvious.  Do I need to say more?  I feel right now like I am at that point where I can see where I have been, a long way behind me, and I can get a glimpse of where I am going.  I know that in order to make it, it’s going to be accomplished one step, one pedal stroke at a time.

Today’s blog is an example of why one should not write the title before the blog.

By the way, I put my favorite pair of shoes on this morning in the dark.  My left shoe had these funny hard white spots on them.  What the heck?  Where did they come from?  In the light, I realized what happened.  When I made the onion gravy for my pork chops last night, some of the flour/milk mix from the plastic container dripped on my shoes.  Oops.20170221_080539

Moving On


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Patience and perseverance combined with sweat.  Life often requires all three, even when it seems like there are those who have everything handed to them.  Those more often than not learn that lesson the hard way.  Whether it be a task, a relationship, a car, or your body, in order to make it through it’s going to take the willingness to push through what seems too difficult, unbearably hard.  More often than not, you are going to make it.

After working my tail off since this first week of November on my house, it finally was ready to list for sale.  This past Wednesday evening, the listing went live (click the link to see the details).  There was a showing Thursday afternoon, Friday morning, and yesterday morning (Saturday).

Yesterday’s showing started at 10 AM.  It was a gorgeous day, perfect for a singletrack ride, so I went out early, planning to get home a little after 11.  When I pulled around the corner at 11:15, there were still cars parked in front of the cars, so I drove around the block, parked in front of my neighbor’s house and joined him in his man cave garage to listen to the young couple touring the outside of my house with a realtor.

Man :  The porch roof must be hollow? 

Realtor:  I assume so.  It says here that the roof was new in 2016.  Driveway was new in 2015.

Woman:  Yeah, it looks really good.

I smiled as I listened.  The young couple had met the realtor at my house, arrived in separate cars (relatively new compact Chevrolets).  They were there specifically to look at my house.  They stayed until almost noon.  This early thirties couple was seriously looking at my house.

Miriam and I were in our early thirties when we bought the house.  Childless at the time.. just like this young couple.  When the report came back from our realtor, I found out that the couple was preapproved for an FHA mortgage, so our house would be their first house.  They are currently renting a house, were just informed by their landlord that the house they are renting is under foreclosure.  Our house is in a quiet neighborhood, bustling with active and friendly families, in one of the most desirable school districts in the west suburbs of Chicago.  As it was for us, our house will be perfect for the young couple.

Our realtor sent an email to me around 2:30 PM.. with congratulations and a formal offer included as an email attachment.  The couple had extended an offer, close to our asking price, with a request for closing cost credit and a home warranty.  Miriam and I sat down to discuss the offer, go over our thoughts together, one of the things we actually do well as a couple.  She didn’t like that the closing cost credit was potentially $5000 and that the offer was $5000 less than our asking price.  I simply wanted to know the details of the home warranty.

I put my phone on speaker when our realtor called, so Miriam could participate in the call.  He answered our questions, explained that the home warranty was $500 and for a year, basically insurance that would insure that things like the water heater or furnace or windows would be replaced by the policy if they needed to be replaced.  He suggested a counter offer, accepting the closing cost credit but only if the asking price was accepted, and requesting an additional $1000 of earnest money.

They accepted.  The closing is March 31.

Our discussion moved to the next step — when would we start the divorce?  Logically, it should start after March 31, when we each would have money from the sale of the house to retain a lawyer.

Miriam left to take care of some business shortly after the phone call with the realtor.  Nate was playing golf.  I stood in the freshly painted living room of my house, the afternoon sun casting a glow on the harvest gold walls of the living and dining room.  These people were going to get a nice house, one that I know I have worked hard to maintain over the years (not just the past few months).  I stood there for a while, memories washing over me as I thought of everything that had happened in that room alone.  We made at least one of our children in front of a blazing fire in the fireplace.  Our children crawled on the carpet at my feet.  I laughed as I remembered interviewing my little red head, melted chocolate chips smeared across her face, as I tested our new video camera, then a few years later as she lovingly cuddled her first kitten in that same chair.  Nate building blanket forts using the cushions of the couch and love seat.  Family dinners, the dining room and living room and kitchen full of warmth.  Her sisters gathered around the dining room table, singing songs in Portugeuse as they reminisced their childhood.  My brothers in law and I sat around that same table, teaching our missionary father in law to play cards, much to the shock of our pious spouses.  There were those times chasing our first dog child around that table, trying to get him in house cage so we could leave the house, or the time when I came home as that same dog child sprang up on that table and took a defiant dump in the middle of the table (he was a terrier, so any terrier owner probably has similar memories).  I pictured that same terrier patiently being dressed up by our toddler daughter, complete with a bonnet, placed in a doll stroller, and being pushed like a baby around the house.

Almost 23 years of memories are in that house.

I hope those memories stay in that house, greet the new owners, live on as they create new memories of their own.

March 31 will be here soon.  My life is changing.  It’s getting real.



Quick Update

I’m alive.  Barely.  After burning the candle at both ends, working at my regular job during the day then going home to work around the house, I am wiped out.  My boss told me to go home early yesterday, get some rest.  Funny thing is that I went home, napped for ten minutes, then packed up stuff to get ready for a meeting with the realtor.

Yes, you heard that right.  Realtor.  After nearly three months, the house is about ready to sell.

I think the realtor was happy with what he saw.  When the photographer comes to take the pictures for the listing, I will post some of the pictures, let you decide.  The house is small, 1400 square feet, and not updated with the latest popular upgrades, but it’s nice and cozy.  In Chicago’s western suburbs right now, there is a shortage of house inventory, so I am hoping that helps the house to sell.  It is a seller’s market.

My realtor is encouraging me to list the house at a price a little below the target price that I had in my mind, but it’s close.  The CMA that he brought with him showed the houses in my neighborhood that have sold in the last six months, a good gauge to use since an appraiser will do the same thing.  My neighborhood has four models of houses that were sold, with only a few variations, so it’s fairly easy to compare and determine a price.

Selling the house is the last step.  It’s beginning to feel final.  Interestingly, my wife was happy and buoyant during the meeting with the realtor.  We even went out to dinner together after the meeting, looking at the condos online that each of us are considering to buy when the house sells.  I am more anxious right now than I have been in the past few months.  This whole divorce thing is becoming more of a reality, a change that I am ready for, yet I am not.  I step back, look at the comfortable house that I have lived in for the last 22 years, think about the small and not as private condo life that I have ahead of me.  Strange, but change is good and it will be good for me.

So, there you go.  Alive.  Life changing.  House about to (hopefully) sell.

Paint My Wagon, Buddy


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It’s all over but the shouting, people.

My dad used to say that a lot.  He would come through the front door of our house, dirty and scummy, a broad grin pasted on, those satisfied words exclaimed as if he believed the day would never come.  Dad built a lot of houses, all in his free time mind you, because construction was not his real job.  After the past few months, I understand a little more why he said that.  I witnessed my weary father push through his building projects, courageously laboring until almost near the end, when he always seemed to catch a second wind in order to finish those last few projects.  That is where I am at right now.  With nearly every wall but one inside the house painted, I can taste victory.  I am almost there.

It’s a good thing.  Paint fumes have nearly destroyed my brain.  Two months or more of painting will do that to you.

I can’t say that I totally hate to paint.  If interior house painting was simply opening a can of paint, dipping the brush or roller in the can and wildly slapping it on, I might say it was fun.  Heck, maybe some nude painting might be a trip.

Wait, cleaning the paint off afterwards might be a little tricky.  There also is that thing about taking down all window coverings to paint.

That’s really what causes interior house painting to be tedious — the prep work.  Walls have to be washed, curtains and hardware removed, pictures and fasteners removed, holes spackled, major damage patched and sanded, dark walls and water spots primered, trim and ceilings taped.  By the time prep work is finished, I am too tired to enjoy the painting.

The reward is usually the finished job.  A few of the rooms painted the past few weeks look outstanding.  I am good or so I think until I look at the shoddy work done in other parts of the house.  The shoddy ones are usually the rooms that I was either wobbly tired or high on paint fumes (or both).

fb_img_1485136833405Evidence of fatigue shows up when it comes time to put some of the hardware back on the wall.  For instance, this towel rack I put back up late last Sunday night.  I took a step back to admire my handiwork, musing for a few moments before I realized something.  And I also realized that it was time to quit for the evening.

If I really put my beautiful nose to the grindstone (I am idiom saturating today), the house could be ready to list by next week.  At most, it’s going to be two weeks.

And then the real work starts.

Of course, the new place will likely need to be painted and fixed up….


Humor Me


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Keeping my sense of humor during this time of transition in my life is a challenge.  I used to think that nothing would dull my ability to laugh at life, whether it be sickness or trial, and for the most part that has been the truth.  This has not been a time of wailing, depression, or extreme loneliness — those times came before.  The challenge comes in maintaining the proper motivation for life, pushing through, staying strong, doing what needs to be done.  Even more of a stretch is recognizing what this whole divorce situation is doing to my family, how they are handling it, and deciding how I should react.

That might be the most difficult challenge.  Already aggressive and angry before my wife and I headed towards divorce, his anger was magnified by the announcement.  It’s tough for him watching the house literally and figuratively being dismantled, prepared for sale and the finality of what certainly means an end to life as he knows it.  I get it.  I feel for him.

That said, I have to carry on, keep working on getting the house ready to sell, despite his protests and his lashing out.  A week ago, last Saturday, I began preparing our living and dining rooms for painting, took down pictures and patched and taped the trim.  The living room is where my son retreats when he gets tired of playing video games in his bedroom, even has taking to sleeping on the living room couch most nights (which I do not like).  After working all day and evening last Saturday, I plopped on the couch and settled in to watch a movie, the second installment of the Rambo series.  Just as Rambo started getting into it with the bad guys, a perturbed male voice announced behind me — CHANGE THE CHANNEL, I WANT TO WATCH THE FOOTBALL GAME.  I was tired, drained, and not ready for the conflict that had just been thrust at me.  On top of that, I can’t think of a time in recent history where my son has not done exactly the same thing to me.  I rarely get to watch more than ten minutes of a movie before my son enters, demands the channel be changed, or snatches the TV remote to change the channel.

This time I refused.  I told him no.  When he started to fight me about it, I stood up.  Immediately, I had a large 17 year old boy swinging at me and connecting.  I yelled at him, told him to stop and think about what he was doing.  When he started swinging at me again, I knocked him to the floor, slapped him on the arm, backed up and told him to leave me alone.  He didn’t.  He jumped up and tried to tackle me, then when he failed to do that ran out in bare feet and shorts to the garage, where he grabbed a hammer from my workbench.  Stomping back across the garage, he announced to me that he was going to use the hammer to put holes in the walls inside the house.  I stopped him.  He swung the hammer at me halfheartedly, then threw it against the inside of the garage door.  Retreating to my workbench, where my mountain bike was also parked, he stood on the carpet there, threatening to find a tool to use to wreck my bike.

He stood there for two hours, barefooted and in shorts.  It was 7 degrees outside.  I stood inside the house, asked him to come inside and talk about what was going on, told him I was sorry for what is going on, explained that nothing he could do would change the situation.  Any damage he would do would only make the situation worse.  My son pleaded with me, don’t sell the house.  It has to be sold, I told him.

He’s angry.  I get it.  So am I, for that matter.  He’s also trying to control, using the divorce as another excuse to be aggressive.  I get that too.

At one point, I called 911 but hung up before they answered (it rang 3 times without an answer).  I didn’t want to deal with a son who was frostbitten.  I didn’t want to have to fight him, which he was challenging me to do.  I didn’t want my mountain bike to be damaged, a prize to me in more ways than one.  And I was too tired to deal with the situation for much longer.  I feigned a call to his mother, who was out with friends.  I called a friend, who at 11:30 PM had already gone to bed.  My only real choice, besides asking the law to intercede, was to wait it out.

Eventually she came home, nearly two hours into the standoff, just as I had reached my breaking point and had started yelling at him to get inside the house.  Hearing me yell, she immediately blamed me for the entire situation.  He’s obviously distraught, she exclaimed, so leave him alone.  I wasn’t going to leave until he did, even as they both berated me for loving my precious bicycle more than them.  After another half hour of standoff, he agreed to leave my bicycle alone if we would leave him alone.  We did.  He came inside, instantly charged me as he came through the door, swinging at me again.  I left, went upstairs, shut the bedroom door behind me and locked it.  It was 12:30.  The conflict had started nearly at 9 PM.

The next morning, when I came home from church, my wife insisted that I finish painting the downstairs rooms and hallway by the end of the day.  She didn’t offer to help.  It was all my fault.  I was wrong for what had happened the night before, needed to be more sensitive to our son.  While I agree with her that he is more sensitive right now, she did not agree with me when I said that he was also trying to take advantage of the situation.  There needed to be a balance.  Instead of backing him up, for a change she needs to support me and not instantly defend him.. for once.  Just because we are getting a divorce does not mean that she does not need to support me.

And so it goes.

I can’t get out of the house fast enough.  This needs to be over.  That was my prayer at 12:30 last Saturday night (or early Sunday morning).

It does suck to be me, enough that it’s almost comical.  The money that I was hoping to use to start the divorce moving was sucked into a car repair, to the tune of $1600 a week ago, with $160 added for a rental car.  Yep.  December 31, my VW decided to rebel.  Maybe it’s angry with me, too?  I only have to laugh.

I have finished painting downstairs, start painting the stairwell and upstairs hall today.  New windows will be installed in the upstairs master bedroom this Wednesday.  New carpet has already been installed, powder room tile regrouted, kitchen cabinets restored, trim replaced, doors rehung, outside of the house cleaned and repaired.  I’m close, probably 2-3 weeks away from the house being ready to list.

I’m trying to be patient.

Until then….


Why don’t you make chicken and dumplings tonight for dinner?  Nate really likes your chicken and dumplings.

My wife texted me late this afternoon, informing me that she is working late, a not so rare occurrence these days.  What is even more rare is for our family to eat dinner together.  What is even more rare is for our son to actually eat what is cooked for dinner. I am a very good cook, but it really doesn’t matter.  Unless my daughter is home, I am going to eat alone.  Meal planning was never my wife’s forte even when she was a SAHM, a precedent that has carried over into the present.

I made the dumplings any way.  I like them.  They are a light version of a standard recipe.  If you don’t mind messing with making the dumplings from scratch, then it’s an easy dish to prepare.

Nate came home from playing tennis with his friends at the club.  Did he eat the dumplings?  No.

I can’t wait until this divorce is final.  I can’t wait until I can plan meals and not worry about anyone else.  The spoiled child is living with his mother.

Happy As A Pig In Mud


Chicagoland has seen a little over 17 inches of snow this month.  What that means to trail riders such as myself is no riding trails, unless you are blessed with a fat bike that has studded tires.  That’s not me.

BUT it has been dry since Sunday.  Saturday night the temperatures shot into the high forties, causing us to wake up Sunday morning to a green Christmas.  I went to bed looking at a white landscape, woke up to a clear yard.  Monday was in the fifties.  It has been colder since then, but not outrageously cold (at least for we people who are used to cold weather).

fb_img_1482953610893I waited until today.  Waited until I thought it was safe to ride the trails.  BLAM!  I rode this afternoon and it was GREAT.  Mostly clear trails, about half of them completely dry, the others damp enough to cover my back side with mud, as well as a spatter or two on my glasses.  I don’t care.  I got to ride.

Riding was fun, although after three weeks and the holidays had me a bit bleah on the trails.  It was not a fast ride, but it didn’t need to be.

Yay me!




Here I sit, greasy and unshaven, pondering what to do with my free time while on holiday break.  My office is open today through Thursday of this week, my boss graciously holding down the fort today and Thursday.  I am thoroughly rested, accomplished Saturday while nurturing the affects of too much Christmas cheer on Friday.  While I didn’t really overdo it to the point of it being dangerous, I let my boss buy four rounds at lunch on Friday — which for me is too much.  I arrived home Friday evening, proceeded to pass out on the couch, roused at midnight by my wife.  She wanted to go to sleep and the couch is her bed when our daughter is home from college.

Christmas was actually a nice time.  We went to Christmas eve church services together as a family, celebrated Christmas day at home in our usual fashion.  Of course, this holiday was different than any other in our family, something that I know we all were thinking about even though no one said it.  We consumed our traditional cinnamon roll breakfast, exchanged gifts (nice gifts — my son wanted to give his mother tickets to a James Taylor concert at Wrigley field this summer, so I bought them and he gave them to her).  Don’t go see ‘Fences’, the movie we chose to see at the theater.  It’s real bad.  My guess is that it was far more powerful on the stage, power that did not transfer to the screen.

I am trying to be productive this week.  Finding someone who will replace the two nasty windows in the master bedroom has been a challenge.  No one wants to do just two windows, so they quote high.  Our plan is to replace those two windows, then negotiate a credit for the rest of the windows in the house when we sell the house.  Yesterday, I spent part of the day trying to get quotes for windows, did small projects around the house.  It was a decent day outside, so I washed the siding and shutters on the front of the house, scrubbed the garage door, reattached all the downspouts.  I also attempted to recaulk a window — and may give up on that.  It looks VERY amateur.20161227_105720.jpg

Painting starts next week around the house.  Out of respect for my daughter, I am trying to do very little to the house while she is home from college.  It’s a delicate situation — I need to do things, but I don’t want to add to the angst.

Next week also starts indoor riding season.  I need to get serious again after taking a few weeks off.  Last night I dreamed that I had entered an indoor time trial race, finished in second place despite not riding a road bike for months.  My mind is trying to tell me something.

Hope all is well with everyone.  Thanks for reading and living a little of my life with me during 2016.  Next year should prove to be quite an adventure, so stay tuned.

Not As Dark As I Suspected It Would Be


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I thought I would be numb right now.  I thought that I would be in the throes of misery.  Tonight should have been one of the most terrible experiences of my life.  Why, oh why, do I feel calm and peaceful, serene?

Tonight we had a family meeting.  We told our kids what is about to happen.

I made a decision earlier this week, after listening to my wife waffle, after trying to find a solution to our family Christmas holiday that would be fair to not only my children, but to my family.  After all, my wife had called my mother a few weeks ago and initiated a conversation that pretty much ensured that she would not be welcome at my family’s Christmas celebration.  The result of that phone call made it nearly impossible for us to wait to tell our children about our divorce until after Christmas.  With that in mind, I texted my daughter, found out when her last college final exam would be (Wednesday of this week), asked when she would be home (this afternoon).  My decision was a tough one, one that could not be shared with my wife because she would not go along with it.  I doubted the wisdom also, but my gut told me to do it.  Wednesday night, I talked to my daughter, told her that her mother would not be going with us this Saturday to celebrate Christmas with my family.  Her mother had a falling out with my parents.

You and I both know that would not fly with my daughter, especially if you know my daughter.  I called her from my car, on the way home from a meeting.  Before I arrived home, she had already texted her mother and asked what was going on.  My wife was not happy with me, not just because I had put her in a bad position, but because she claimed I had lied when I said she had a falling out with my parents.  I didn’t fight with her, simply reminded her of the phone call that she had made and the circumstances that were created as a result.  It was true that earlier this week she had offered to go to my family Christmas, my mother advising her against it.  That was why she was claiming that I had lied to our daughter.

A portion of my decision rested on the fact that I knew my daughter would have a day to think about things.  She would have the support of her friends.  She would be able to meet with a counselor she has been seeing at her college.  My girl is strong.  She does not avoid.  When she got home, she talked with her mother for a while, then requested a family meeting to find out what was going on.

I am very glad that she did.  We sat down as a family, calmly, and my wife and I gave our children the news.

“This is something that should have happened a long time ago, for the sake of all of us.”  My daughter delivered that statement with resolve.  And she is right.

As suspected, she was not surprised.  My son feigned surprise, tried to act angry, but it was weak, something I think he may have already rehearsed and realized that it wasn’t the best.  He retreated, went up to his room.  Nate is going to require some space, but he is also going to require the most care, I think.

At the moment, tonight seems to have needed to happen when it did.  Now the gorilla has been dismissed.  We can celebrate Christmas together in a week, knowing that we still have some time together in the home that we have shared.


Getting ready for D-day is a lot of work.  There is a house that needs to be readied for sale.  Even though I am fairly diligent with house maintenance, I still have things that need to be done before our place is presentable.  My goal in the past few years is to do one major thing to the house a year — new furnace one year, new air conditioner and coil, new asphalt driveway, and a new roof this past summer.  Windows were the next thing, a necessity for a 30 year old house, but they have been moved up in priority.  Carpet on the stairs and hallway also is being done in the next few weeks.

So far, I have managed to hang three new doors, replace two faucets and a bathtub drain, repair and refinish floor cracks/divots, install a new shelf under the kitchen sink, scrub the siding on the back of the house, rehang a loose shutter, scrub the wood deck, replace the door closer on the front door, put a new light in the laundry room, fix a spot in the master bedroom wall where my son punched a hole, repair a cracked door threshold on my daughter’s bedroom door and replace the strike plate (another son inflicted blemish), move a treadmill from the upstairs bedroom to the garage (and sell it on Craigslist), clear the books off of a bookshelf.  Whew!  If it looks like a lot, it is.  That has all happened in a three week period.  That doesn’t include finding a realtor to sell the house, or meeting estimators to replace the carpet and windows.

My favorite project so far has been rehabbing the kitchen cabinets.  Until I started working on them, I didn’t realize how nasty they really were.  They hadn’t been cleaned for years, plus many of the hinges would no longer close.  I removed all of the cabinet doors and hinges, scrubbed them with Murphy’s Oil Soap, and applied a finish restoring stain to them (the stuff is reallllllly good).  The ends of the cabinets that face windows were badly faded, so I got some oak end pieces and covered them, then stained them.  Finding the right replacement hinges was a trick, enough that I only replaced a few, fixed the ones that were totally bad.  It took me a few days, but after the doors were put back in place and the finish rehabbed, I am pretty stinking proud of myself.

The realtor also has shown some affordable condos to me, only a mile from my house.  They are fairly old, built in 1977. but in a nice area and in good shape.  Each condo has an attached garage.  Buying, if I buy one of those condos, will be approximately $600 less than monthly rent for an apartment (an expensive venture around here).

There is a lot to do.  We haven’t had the time to start on the actual divorce, mostly because I have been too busy with the house.  Once the house is ready and the holidays over, I will be more motivated to get to work on the real difficult task.

I don’t like the thought of what is looming ahead.  The holidays will not likely be pleasant.  Our kids will probably find out about the pending divorce, my popularity most likely will take a hit.  Christmas could be real lonely for me.  Maybe I am wrong, but I am probably not.  I guess maybe it will be a good idea to keep my nose to the grindstone, keep busy.

Any way.. about the kitchen cabinets.. waddayathink?